Whistling in the wind

Professor Robert Lee | 12 years ago

The Isle of Wight hardly seems the obvious candidate for radical protest but the lock in a Vestas Wind Systems factory in Newport IoW has brought together green groups and unions in protest at the closure of the plant by world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer because of slow sales in Northern Europe.

On 29 July, in the Newport County Court, attempts to evict the protesters failed apparently because the application named only one of the protesters – so the sit in continues.

Meanwhile out of embarrassment, perhaps, at the loss of renewable energy infrastructure at a time when targets for renewable energy are set higher than ever, The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) was moved to announce that RBS would increase lending for wind-farm development through a three year investment scheme with the European Investment Bank (EIB) worth up to £1 billion.

As the Government owns around 70% of RBS it presumably is happy that the Bank will respond to its bidding. However, the uneasy pact of a private retail bank which is largely publicly owned was never better demonstrated than by RBS’s reaction to the DECC announcement. The Bank expressed surprise and disappointment that they had not been informed about the statement. Any such agreement was months away and might only follow considerable commercial negotiations. The Times is now reporting that ‘RBS may back out of government lending plan’.

The whole episode is symptomaticof our attempts to move to a low carbon economy. We can only do so by significant investment in energy infrastructure. Such investment will herald a green-led recovery says the Government. But in renewables, as in nuclear and in carbon capture and storage, it is to private investment that the Government turns. And private lenders, even ones with considerable levels of public support, have yet to show much appetite.

About the author

Professor Robert Lee

ERIC Director and Head of Birmingham Law School, Professor Robert Lee was co-director of the publicly funded Centre for Business Relationships, Accountability, Sustainability and Society at Cardiff University (BRASS). He is an expert on regulation, including environmental regulation and regulation of biotechnology and biomedicine. He previously worked for two top 10 UK law firms, and remains a professional-development consultant to one of the largest law firms in Europe, working on pan-European delivery of legal services.